Luke 15:1-7

Read Luke 15:1-7
Numbering the poster board from 1-100, I glued a cotton ball next to 94 of the numbers. Each cotton ball represented a sheep, and I explained to the kids that I had found 94 of the 100. The children were completely dissatisfied with my assurance that 94 was fine, enough, and that it was okay to disregard the 6 lost cotton balls. But they insisted they could help me search for the six missing ‘sheep’. Quickly scattering around the room, they immediately located five more cotton balls. Gluing them onto the board, I thanked them and continued to teach. But finding five did not satisfy, and they demanded we look for the very last one. After attempting to convince them again that 99 was a lot of sheep, they became increasingly agitated until I pulled the very last cotton ball out of my back pocket. The room quieted with a contented sigh.
Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep in response to the Pharisee’s grumbling about Jesus’ consistent willingness to ‘receive sinners and eat with them’. In an attempt to open their eyes to the value he saw in each person, no matter their station in life, physical condition, or religiosity, he shares the allegory of the lost sheep. There are several things to note in this sweet but simple story.
First, the parable reminds us of our similarities to sheep. Sheep can be easily distracted, run off from fear, fail to find healthy food and water, and are subject to predators. We run hard after pleasure, comfort and stuff, and many things distract us from the best things.  When sheep become ‘cast down’, literally upside down, they are unable to right themselves, dying if not rescued, and we too need rescuing. And being creatures of habit, left to themselves, sheep follow the same trails until they become hard ruts and graze the same pastures until they become barren. The ruts we follow and barren pastures we graze yield no growth or fruit, and we become weak and weary with life.
And the shepherd, determined and brave, sacrificed much to care for even one lost sheep. He left the 99, searched until he found the one, threw it over his shoulder, laughed and went home to host a party! When we are cast down and need to be right-sided, Jesus uses his word, our church community, and our tribe of family and friends to roll us over and so that we will not fade away. And because of the constant needs of the sheep, good shepherds were available both night and day. We can call on our Shepherd for direction at any time, for physical and spiritual sustenance and to provide what we need to get us back on the right path. Jesus goes ahead of us, and leads us to still, clean places, where we are fed and can grow. He loves us just as much when we stray, as he does when we are near. He comes after us.
When I finished telling the story, I asked the kids, ‘if you were the only person on the earth, would Jesus die for you?’. ‘Yes, yes, Jesus would die for me’ they answered.
And this is grace to us, that he would die for one.
Linda Miller | Ministry Development

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